Our neighbors probably think we are the worst parents ever and wonder how it is that we received recommendations from the State of California-- twice-- to adopt children.
To start with, you need to know that Casey is quite an escape artist. He figured out how to open doors very early. Sliding doors, the front door, bedroom doors-- all of them. We mostly were able to keep him inside with gates, by keeping the front door locked. But then Casey discovered how to unlock the front door. So one day, while I was in the shower, he did just that. I didn't know he'd done that, of course, until I got out of the shower and found the house empty and the front door ajar. And as you might imagine, my heart began racing, and I went into panic mode. I ran into the bedroom, pulled on clothes as quickly as I could, and was hopping on one foot, heading out the front door just as Casey came up the walkway with-- of all people, my cranky neighbor's mother (who was in town watching the kids, I assume).
[Side note here, I originally wrote all about what causes me to call this neighbor cranky in this post about a Neighborhood Party-- at least some of what causes me to call her cranky. I decided against posting the whole story because it's not really relevant to this story. Suffice to say that our next door neighbor really doesn't like us. And that's putting it nicely. Though they are quiet and civil, so I really shouldn't complain.]
Of course I was terribly embarrassed. And profusely apologetic. I explained that I was just on my way to hunt for him, and that we obviously needed to put a new lock on the front door, and I was so grateful she'd discovered him. She commented that a boy his age should know his name and his address (and because she works with preschoolers, she knew what was age appropriate-- and that at least he could lead her to our home. I thanked her. I told her I was so grateful. And I thanked her for the advice.
Honestly, though, I was kind of miffed at her comments. I mean what parent wouldn't be horrified that their child had taken off? And whether or not he can communicate as he should-- why is that any of her business? I don't owe a stranger-- even one who rescued my child-- an explanation about his speech and language delays. [And I know my irritation with her is mostly because of our strained relationship with her daughter.]
No, I didn't say anything to her. I was too embarrassed by his behavior. Too embarrassed that Casey was running around outside with no socks or shoes on his his pajamas to say anything but thank you. There was no good reason or me to get defensive. But, really-- what are the odds? That of all people in the neighborhood who could find Casey it would be those neighbors? Of course, my gratitude outweighed all my other feelings (except my exasperation with Casey), so I kept my mouth shut (in a rare instance of tongue-biting on my part).
The next week Jason installed a hotel-room-like top lock. The kind that works a little like a chain lock. And Casey hasn't escaped since.
Well, he hadn't escaped since until yesterday.
Yesterday I was in the study working on school work. Marcie was with me. Casey was in the house playing with Pugasus. Jason was cleaning up. Jason had come into the study, and then left-- and I heard the door to the garage open, so I assumed he was stepping outside to dump a bag of trash.
But then I looked up and Marcie had disappeared from the room. And the house was eerily quiet. The kind of quiet that tells you something is very wrong. I lunged out of the study and into the laundry room. Marcie was in the doorway between the laundry room and the garage, trying to figure how to take the step down into the garage. I called out for Jason and Casey but go no answer.
Then I looked up-- across the street. We'd left the garage door open to help us with our cleaning. And I saw Casey running up the driveway of the neighbor across the street. Just to the left of their minivan. And I saw Pugasus running up the driveway of the neighbor across the street-- just to the right of their minivan. And then I saw the rear brake lights and the reverse-white lights on the minivan flash. The car was on and he had already begun to back up.
I'm not sure why I didn't go screaming like a banshee across the street. Part of it, I suppose, was that I had Marcie dangling from the grasp of my left arm, balancing on my hip. Part of it, I think, was that the rear bake lights were on-- so I could tell the vehicle wasn't actually moving.
In any event, I yelled at Casey, who came running with abandon back across the street toward me (I was now at the edge of the sidewalk). I was so angry and so relieved all at the same time, a mixture of emotions I'm sure most parents feel at least once in their lifetime of parenting. Once Casey was safely in my grasp, the neighbor proceeded to complete backing up from his driveway, then he rolled down his window to say something.
Honestly, I don't remember what he said. I was so upset with Casey-- and so mad at myself for leaving the garage door open and not preventing Casey from exposing himself to such danger. But whatever he said, I probably deserved it.
Casey was appropriately admonished. There was some voluminous . . . uh . . . conversation. Mostly on our part. We used the word dangerous and street so many times that I think it finally sunk in. Casey spent probably 30 minutes alone in his room contemplating his behavior and why it upset, angered, and worried us. Of course, I don't trust that this means Casey will control his impulses and stay on our side of the street in the future. But I do trust that I'll remember to keep the garage door shut from now on. . .